Tag Archives: pete rock

Music

100% Pure Poison: St. Germain, Pete Rock & J Dilla

In the early 1970s, nine American servicemen stationed in Germany formed a soul band.  They called themselves 100% Pure Poison (it was the seventies, after all). After sneaking in to a music industry conference and snagging a deal with British EMI, they released their first and only album, Coming Right At You.  According to All Music Guide, the album features vocal interplay “recalling the Temptations” and “a jazzy instrumental sophistication equal to the Blackbyrds.”  

While I can’t vouch for the whole thing, one track on Coming Right At You has found its way into the catalogue of three of my favourite artists – French acid-jazz producer St. Germain and  hip-hop legends and beat-makers extraordinaire Pete Rock and J Dilla.  All three have sampled the opening few bars of “Windy C,” the album’s sixth track, to great effect.  Lasting only about 10 seconds (from 0:11 to 0:21), the four bar sequence has a mellow, jazzy, slightly-uptempo groove to it that seems perfect for sampling.  Have a listen below (Youtube was the best I could do):

It’s dope, right?  Unfortunately, the opening bars are littered with the kind of clutter that drives beat makers absolutely nuts – ambient traffic sounds at the start of the loop and vocals at the end of it.  One way to get around this without resorting to intense chopping is to filter the sample like crazy.  In other words, instead of identifying, extracting and then reassembling the usable bits of the loop (a time-consuming process), you simply apply a ludicrous number of filters and effects, thereby highlighting the general theme of the sample while obliterating any nuance or variation (i.e. the extraneous noise).

This is apparently how Pete Rock approached the sample, which he used as the backbone for his beat “Get Involved” off the Petestrumentals record.  The first thing you’ll notice is the stark difference in audio quality between the Pete Rock beat and the original, largely a result of the heavy filtration that gives the beat its distinct ‘wah wah‘ sound.  Although present in “Windy C,” Pete Rock’s knob-fiddling has really drawn it out in the beat.

However, that’s not to say he hasn’t done any chopping.  In the opening eight bars or so, you can clearly hear the traffic noise at the beginning of the loop.  Why he left it in is beyond me, but I suppose it adds that element of subtle fluctuation which prevents a beat from sounding too monotonous.  Also, listen for the vocal sample starting at 4:19 – you’ll know why in a minute.  Anyways, check it out:

Pete Rock – Get Involved (Petestrumentals, 2005) 

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St. Germain’s take on “Windy C” is similar.  He’s clearly run the sample through some filters, although it’s not as obvious as on “Get Involved.”  Perhaps the biggest difference is that whereas Pete Rock uses the sample as the focus of his beat, adding the occasional scratch here and there, St. Germain relegates it to the background of “Sure Thing”.  Emphasized at the beginning of the track to set the mood, the loop is gradually submerged beneath a wave of other samples – the melancholic blues lament (‘you’re the pretty, pretty, pretty’ (?)) also used by Pete Rock (see above), and the increasingly frenetic guitar solo.  

Although to be fair, this seems to be how most house music is constructed, so I suppose I shouldn’t read too deeply into it.  Get your listen on below:

Finally, the Dilla version, a track called “Lucy” from his posthumously-released Jay Love Japan album.  One of the reasons dude was such a genius is because he did what other people never even considered doing.  In this instance, instead of avoiding the vocals at the end of the loop, Dilla incorporated them into his beat.  He also went the hard route and chopped it up like crazy, replacing segments of the loop with other samples from later on in the original song.  To hear what I mean, listen to the 0:27 mark for the drum roll and the vocal sample at the end of the intro loop, and starting at about 1:17 listen for the short flute stabs and the band members talking.  Shit is absolutely nuts!  

J Dilla – Lucy feat. Bo Bo Lamb (Jay Love Japan, 2007)

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Album cover image yanked from: http://991.com/newgallery//100-Pure-Poison-Coming-Right-At-Y-328421.jpg

Art

Beth Fladung’s Hip-hop Photography

Hip-hop photography is an underappreciated art.  Unlike photography associated with other genres of music (particularly jazz and rock), hip-hop photography is less established, and frankly, less respected.  Maybe it’s because the genre is still relatively young, or maybe it’s because many wrongly assume that hip-hop photography means tough looking gangster-types looking menacingly at the camera.

Fortunately, that’s usually not the case.  Take Beth Fladung, for example.  She takes compelling shots of hip-hop luminaries and their urban environs.  Her photos are evocative and atmospheric.  If you don’t believe me, check out the attached photos of Pete Rock, Brooklyn and the RZA, below.

Then, check out her website here for more photographic dopeness.

Music Politics

New York Sun writer is ignorant about hip hop

John McWhorter is an “author” who writes for the New York Sun. He’s got a book coming out called About the Beat: Why Hiphop Can’t Save Black America and in an effort to stir up some attention about it he’s written an article claiming that conscious hip hop is a myth.

In his incredibly awkward (I’m talking puberty-level awkward) rant, he fundamentally misunderstands the argument in support of hip hop and conscious hip hop in particular. With a flawed understanding, it’s no surprise that he arrives at his arrogant conclusion.

Here’s what he says: “But conscious rap fans are making the same mistake as the suburbanists in Britain. They think of it as unquestionable that for black people, politics must be about challenging authority, taking to the streets, the upturned middle finger. The problem is that the days when this orientation fed or taught anyone anything are long past. They miss other kinds of black politics that actually help people in the real world.”

What he doesn’t understand is not that so-called black politics is about challenging authority, but rather that hip hop became a very useful tool for disaffected people to express their opinion. African American youth, in particular, were best able to use hip hop as a tool to make their voices known.

McWhorter picks lyrics from various hip hop songs and attempts to use them to prove his point. “For example, Pete Rock grouses that “library broken down is lies buried,” while Dead Prez tells us that high school is a “four year sentence” with teachers “tellin’ me white man lies.” Message: black people should be wary of education. Deep. “Politics.” Sounds good set to a beat.”

His hasty jump to an absurd and embarrassing conclusion is that these artists are telling black people to beware of education. However, in most circles the message is not that. The message is that the education system has been failing blacks. More importantly, it’s been failing individuals of any ethnicity who are forced to go through some of the under-resourced public schools, especially in low-income areas. He cites the charter schools in Harlem that are having remarkable success with their graduates. Perhaps, he’s actually not really arguing so successfully. If anything, the development of charter schools or any other alternative to the traditional crumbling P.S. 106 is exactly what dead prez or Pete Rock is talking about. Plus, as any student who’s ever seen a revisionist history book, libraries aren’t exactly always full of truth. There have been hundreds of examples of people trying to rewrite history to suit their needs or to erase their transgressions.

McWhorter picks and chooses particular lyrics that he feels would suit his petulant theory. He ignores the dozens of examples any true hip hop head could cite about conscious hip hop. Like KRS-One leading youth away from gangs through hip hop. Or hip hop activism trying to encourage black youth to vote. He could quote Common’s Retrospect for Life, where Com raps about abortion, an insanely difficult issue. Or Gang Starr’s What I’m here 4:

“A lot of shit has happened, since I started rappin
There’s been enough beef, and enough gat clappin
There’s been mad signs, for this brother to heed
and while some choose greed, I choose to plant seeds
for your mental, spirit and physical temple”

I could probably go for days and keep pointing out just how wrong this guy is. He accuses people that are “learning their politics from conscious rap” of being inferior. As any loyal reader of 4080 knows, I think we’ve pointed out more than enough examples to prove him painfully wrong.

And we all know that hi hop has done far more for politics and to raise social consciousness than Mr. McWhorter could ever hope to dream of. In the meantime, let him keep writing his books.

[Source: Gawker, NY Sun]

Music

This Is The Remix!

After recently profiling some dope new music, it’s time to take the next logical step and provide our loyal readers with the freshest remixes of those very same tunes. After scanning our favourite blogs (see the list to the right), we humbly present our favourite re-interpretations of new heat from Erykah Badu, Cadence Weapon, Buck 65, as well as remixes of classic joints by Beck and Pete Rock. You can thank us later. For now, get your listen on!

Erykah Badu – Honey (Seiji Mix) (New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), 2008)

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Erykah Badu – Honey (DJ Day Remix) (New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), 2008)

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Ever since the incomparable Ms. Erykah Badu announced that “Honey” would be her new album’s lead single, bedroom producers across the interweb have been scrambling to rework it. All Up In Your Earhole has an excellent post on the subject, featuring four different remixes of the song including one by the author himself. Of the two remixes listed above, the second is from the Earhole post, while the first is from Fly Music.

Cadence Weapon – House Music (A1 Bassline Remix) (Afterparty Babies, 2008)

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Although Cadence Weapon flirts with electronica throughout Afterparty Babies, on “House Music” he comes closest to fully embracing the genre’s sound. The above remix completes the process, layering Cadence Weapon’s raps over a full out house beat (check out the 3:40-ish mark if you don’t believe).

Buck 65 – Way Back When (Ghislain Poirier Remix) (Situation, 2007)

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This is probably my least favourite remix of the lot. Poirier’s beat works well with Buck 65’s lyrics, but it isn’t as catchy as the Skratch Bastid original. I suppose this is an example of a remix missing the mark. Either way, give it a listen.

And finally, check out these two remixes of some older classics. The “Where It’s At” remix is long (~12 minutes), but interesting enough to warrant at least one listen and the Pete Rock remix is by Pete Rock, so you know it’s bangin’!

Beck – Where It’s At (UNKLE Remix) (Odelay (Deluxe Edition), 2008)

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Das EFX – Real Hip Hop (Pete Rock Remix) (Hold It Down, 1995)

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Music

Fresh Beats From Across The Spectrum

 

Time once again for some new music. Keep reading for a fresh serving of beats, rhymes and otherwise tasty music (none of which is Blondie).

Wu-Tang Clan – Windmill (8 Diagrams, 2007)

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Since its release, Wu-Tang’s fifth studio album has been garnering mixed reviews. While some applaud the Staten Island crew for exploring new sounds (“The Heart Gently Weeps,” for example), others are critical of 8 Diagrams’numerous R&B-flavoured hooks (“Gun Will Go,” “Starter” and “Stick Me For My Riches”) and RZA’s experimental production (“Get Them Out Ya Way Pa” and “Sunlight”). While I agree 8 Diagrams is diverse, it nevertheless retains the claustrophobia and grittiness that makes their earlier work so distinctive.

On “Windmill”, Raekwon, GZA, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Method Man and Cappadonna trade verses, using breakdancing as an extended metaphor for violence. Raekwon’s opening rhymes capture this theme perfectly:

“Aiyo, jump out the Acura, crazy heavy, what’s popping?/Us locking the game, word to every hand on the lockmen.”

Later, Masta Killa comes correct with an even deeper interpretation:

“We have agreed, you’ll feel the impact of the truth when I’ll squeeze/The brain feels something pop, hip hop, locked in texts.”

The beat is classic RZA minimalism, with eerie guitar and bass samples lingering over up-tempo, heavily filtered drums. The effect is a sparse soundscape that complements the rhymes without overwhelming them. Definitely one of my favourite tracks from 8 Diagrams. 

Moby – I Love To Move In Here (Last Night, 2008)

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Released last week, Moby’s newest effort is difficult to classify. Its 14 official and one hidden track alternate between various genres and styles, ranging from electro funk (“257 Zero”) to disco (“Everyday Its 1989” and “Disco Lies”) to hip-hop/grime (“Alice”)  to trip-hop (“Hyenas”) to experimental/just plain weird (“Degenerates”). Although every song is decent, it’s on the second track – an old school homage called “I Love To Move In Here” – where Moby really shines. Featuring none other than Grandmaster Caz of “Rapper’s Delight” fame, the track opens with a funky, Latin-inspired drum break. Before long an Acid Jazz piano loop, a vocal sample repeating the eponymous lyrics and some synths have set the stage for Caz’ arrival at around the 1:30 mark. His verse, which sounds like it was written in the early ’80s (a good thing in this case), is followed by a sick break, complete with the dirtiest bass you’ve heard this side of the ’90s. Although some might consider this a gimmick track, I think Moby does a good job of capturing the mash-up feel of old school hip-hop. It’s worth listening to at least.

Pete Rock – We Roll ft. Jim Jones & Max B (NY’s Finest, 2008)

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Pete Rock – The PJs ft. Raekwon & Masta Killa (NY’s Finest, 2008)

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NY’s Finest, like most Pete Rock solo albums, is frustratingly inconsistent. Although flashes of his beat making brilliance shine through at times, disappointing guest appearances (think Pharoahe Monch on Soul Survivor II) have largely prevented his solo albums from achieving greatness thus far. Still, NY’s Finest does include some damn good music, including tracks like “Till I Retire” and “Comprehend,” which feature the Chocolate Boy Wonder blessing the mic with suprising skill. The album’s best beat is probably “We Roll,” a jazzy slice of classic Pete Rock dopeness (updated for the 21st century with a complicated, post-boom bap drum pattern). Coming in a close second is “The PJs,” which features Raekwon and Masta Killa spitting ill rhymes over a laid back, bass heavy beat RZA wishes he had made.  

AZ – The Hardest (Undeniable, 2008)

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Following his now legendary debut on Illmatic, AZ seemed destined for great things. Unfortunately, for whatever reason his first solo album, although considered a classic by underground heads, failed to achieve any significant mainstream success. As a result AZ remains among the most underrated mcs of all time. Indeed, his flow is impeccable and his rhymes reveal a profound poeticism that rewards audiences who listen closely to his intricate lyrics. That’s why its so frustrating when he wastes his talent making garbage music, like half of the joints on his newest album, Undeniable. Although it starts off fairly well with the tracks “The Game Don’t Stop” and “Superstar” (both odes to the game backed by ill ’80s samples), it quickly descends into R&B schlock (“Undeniable” and the absolutely terrible “Go Getta” featuring Ray J) and sped-up ’70s soul samples (“Fire” and “Dead End,” which butchers a Jackson 5 sample). Fortunately, the album picks up again as it draws to a close, with “The Hardest” featuring Styles P, which returns to the winning formula of hard rhymes backed by dope ’80s synths and soaring strings. Following this is a hidden track that sounds like it was produced by DJ Premier (not included in the track above) and is a fantastic way to end the album. Unfortunately, the damage done by the previous 8 tracks may be irreparable.

Morcheeba – Blue Chair ft. Judy Tzuke (Dive Deep, 2008)

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Although I don’t know a lot about Morcheeba, Angry recommended I check out their new album Dive Deep a couple days ago. Atmospheric, and almost eerie at times, the album is, like most trip-hop, good chill out music – put it on after a night at the club or at a laid back dinner party to set the mood. The whole album is solid, but “Blue Chair” is one of the standouts: Judy Tzuke’s dusky voice glides across a down-tempo breakbeat, creating a melancholic vibe that reminds me of Sade.

Download all six tracks here.